Daniel Ricciardo certainly capitalised on home advantage last weekend, as he took his Red Bull RB12 to fourth position. However, being in Australia had no bearing on the power output of the TAG Heuer branded Renault powertrain, as Ricciardo was seemingly able to compete on the straights – something the team have been unable to do in this era of the sport.
Having finished just 24 seconds off the lead despite being on a decidedly compromised strategy, Red Bull seem set for a stronger 2016 campaign.“I definitely think we can feel an improvement compared to last year,” Ricciardo stated in an interview featured on Autosport earlier this week. “I was able to pass some faster cars like the Toro Rosso, the Williams and the Force India, so that was encouraging.”
While both Mercedes and Ferrari have improved their powerunits over the winter, increasing thermal efficiency to almost inconceivable levels, Renault have, unlike in 2015, seemingly been able to keep the pace.
One of Melbourne’s most intriguing storylines was of Renault’s comparative competitiveness on straights. Ricciardo passing Felipe Massa to claim fourth place and Jolyon Palmer holding off the 2015 Ferrari powered Toro Rosso pairing, were certainly two instances which must have improved the mood at Viry-Chatillon.
A promising start indeed for a Red Bull team who were citing the first stages of 2016 as a period of damage limitation. Unquestionably, fourth place in Melbourne will have been far above their very own expectations. The RB12 is certainly a strong baseline.
Crucially, Ricciardo added, “We were also pretty close to Mercedes and Ferrari with laptime, so we can all be pleased with fourth.”
Given the early strength shown by the car in race trim, Red Bull could be set to return to pre-eminence much sooner than even the most optimistic of fans could have predicted.